A good baitcasting reel is all about control: Integrated with a lightweight spinning rod, a simple flick of the thumb towards the free spinning spool can slow or stop a cast, breaking the lure at the desired aiming point and giving the angler greatly improved accuracy.
Our Top Pick:
Though a little trickier to use, this is why most pro fishermen prefer the baitcaster for bass fishing and more. Yet taking your fishing to the next level doesn’t need to break the bank, here we’ve assembled a list of the best baitcasting reels under $100.
Our Top 10 Baitcasting Reels Under $100:
1. Kastking Royale Legend Elite Series | Best for ergonomics
|Aluminum, stainless steel, rubber
Baitcasting reels from Kastking Royale Legend make a serious selling point of their color-coded gear ratios, and the metallic blue model is one of their mid-speed reels, making it ideal for crankbaits and spinnerbaits which don’t pull too much but might well trigger a reaction strike. This is a lightweight reel and is stylish, compact and suitably tournament ready. Its size makes it very easy to palm the reel and the magnetic brakes are easily accessed and do well to limit backlashes.
In terms of components, the Kastking features brass pinion gears and worm drives, which allows for a real sturdiness. The carbon drag offered is 17.6 lbs, which is easily enough for the type of fish this baitcaster reel is intended for. In terms of drawbacks, the cast adjustment knob on the side of the Kastking doesn’t appear to click, but only turn smoothly, and the reeling motion can sometimes be a little bumpy and noisy. For such a reasonable price, however, this is an excellent baitcaster which, paired with an ultralight rod, offers a real competitive edge.
2. Piscifun Torrent 18LB | Best for the price
|Graphite, carbon fiber, brass, stainless steel
This high gear ratio model from Piscifun is well built to offer the speed needed to rapidly pull up slack when fishing for larger game. A lot of noise has been made about this model’s so-called “Japanese Hami Cut” brass gears – and for good reason. These larger- grooved gears make all the difference when it comes to both smoothness and strength and are probably the main reason to opt for this very reasonably priced model. The carbon fiber drag clocks in at 18lb, which you’ll be thankful for when bass fishing with jigs, big worms or lipless crankbaits.
The model also features magnetic brakes with ten settings, which would seem to be the reason this model is so often reported as being great for limiting backlash and offering a smooth and near-silent cast. An important point to remember, however, is that this reel does not stand up well to salt-water use and can corrode easily. Keep it for freshwater, however, and this baitcaster represents the very essence of “low price, high quality”.
3. Shimano XLS | Best for gear action
|Carbon fiber, stainless steel
Usually on the market for around $100, this model is the most expensive on our list, even if it still makes for a great deal compared to some of the more expensive baitcasters out there. Is it worth it? Well, this high gear ratio model is about an inch every way in dimensions, with a lightweight and compact design which allows for relative ease of use, especially when palming the reel or engaging the breaks.
Paired with a lightweight rod, this allows for pretty efficient fishing when going after smaller sized fish with crankbaits or spinnerbaits. Within this realm, the Shimano XLS performs exceptionally well, and the 12 lbs of drag should be more than enough.
Shimano is a company is very well known for its cycling products, and it would seem like some of that engineering finesse is present in the exceptionally smooth gear action and ergonomic finish. Some users have reported a tendency for the braid to get wrapped around the clutch button, but with a little care, this should be an avoidable hazard. Slightly more expensive than the others on our list, a baitcaster like this certainly value for money.
4. Kastking Rover Round | Best for corrosion resistance
|Carbon fiber, stainless steel, aluminum, brass
The second offering from Kastking on our list is something of a triumph of design. Looking little like most Baitcasters, this low gear ratio is all about durability and strength. Made from a winning combination of corrosion-proof stainless steel (the shaft) and anodized aluminum (side plates) this model really is built to last. Particularly impressive is the gear system, a marriage of stainless steel, brass and carbon fiber, it also includes a patented idle gear, so included to ensure smooth action.
As well as looking stunning, this baitcaster offers an incredible 15 to 30 lbs of drag. With such a large range, the angler’s dexterity and ability to respond effectively to often unexpected runs is optimized. A couple of minor faults include a tendency for the line to be unevenly distributed across the spool and for the spool lock to sometimes release on its own, causing backlashes. But for the price, this one is a winner.
5. Piscifun Phantom Carbon | Best lightweight model
|Carbon fiber, stainless steel, aluminum
The lightest on our list (by far), you’re hardly going to feel this high gear ratio baitcaster, but does it still offer all the performance, durability and strength that we’ve come to expect? Used in everything from race car aerofoils to bulletproof vests, we know how strong carbon fiber can be, and this reel uses the material more than most, with the entire frame, side plates and large handle being made from it. Yet this baitcaster still performs well in long-distance casting, offering accuracy, sufficient speed and up to 17lbs drag, which is enough for even the bigger fish out there.
Several measures have been taken against corrosion as well, with stainless steel ball bearings and sufficient shielding of the inner elements. Unfortunately, this reel is not suitable for throwing anything heavier than a half-ounce as the control knob will not tighten down enough. Used within its range, however, it is a highly effective baitcaster, and combined with a superlight rod, the whole rig would still come in lighter than some reels on their own!
6. Cadence CB8 | Best for lightness and strength
|Carbon fiber, aluminum
This is another impressively lightweight baitcaster, going for a similar price to the Piscifun phantom carbon. Coming in several ratios, the higher gear ratio is the one to pick up as the reel performing best with larger fish and bait. There’s an impressive 20 lbs of drag on offer here and a sleek ergonomic design. Interestingly, the gear is made from so-called “aviation class” aluminum and no brass, which is why it is so light.
The downside is that this seems to have led to a bit of a rougher cast, although a good dexterity to the drag survives. The spool, unfortunately, cannot be removed from the reel, which can lead to uneven winding over time. For the price, however, this is another winning reel that manages that tricky balance – lightness and strength.
7. Kastking Whitemax | Best for heavy baits
|Carbon fiber, brass, ceramic
With a medium gear ratio, this offering from Kastking is designed for those heavy baits that lie deep and pull a lot. With these low-speed ratios, torque is what the angler is looking for, and Kastking has accommodated this with “precision brass gearing” allowing for a greater cranking performance. This allows you to exert maximum energy towards pulling in those big fish. The maximum drag is 17.5 lbs and the whole thing is relatively lightweight.
It has been reported that the Whitemax is a bit tricky to set up, with multiple backlashes occurring if the reel isn’t properly configured. This is nothing a few online tutorials can’t fix however, and at such a price, this is a winning low-ratio reel.
8. Abu Garcia Pro Max | Best for compactness
|Graphite, stainless steel, brass
Abu Garcia have made their patented MagTrax break system into one of their main selling points. And for this high gear ratio model, such dexterity in casting is certainly a welcome feature, and the Pro Max offers up to 18lbs of drag to compliment this. Although not as light as some of the others on our list, the Pro Max is impressively compact, with its carbon fiber frame enclosing its inner workings within a shape and size that’s easy to handle.
It’s relatively easy to use, – for a baitcaster – has an incredibly smooth action and is almost backlash-free. When reeling in a fish, the Pro Max can, however, exhibit a little side-to-side movement which can make things a little unstable, but that really is the most minor of complaints. An excellent baitcaster reel.
9. One Bass Level Wind Trolling Reel | Best for drag range
|Aluminum, graphite, stainless steel
This stunning reel, which stands out amongst others in either in its silver/gold or black/gold color schemes, is one of the best around for proper big-game saltwater fishing. The most impressive thing about this offering from One Bass is that, given its whopping drag range, (up to 45 lbs) its low gear ratio and impressive torque, One Bass have actually done an impressive job limiting this baitcaster to only 23 OZ. Obviously, being trolling reel for the big saltwater fish, there are several protections against saltwater corrosion, not least the 14 stainless steel ball bearings.
Quite a significant drawback is that it’s not that smooth and the precision could be a little better but, out on the sea, these are of course less important parameters. For such a reasonable price, this is one of the best for chasing the big ones.
10. Sougayilang Warrior 4000 | Best for saltwater fish
|Aluminum, stainless steel, brass
Another aesthetic pleaser in the manner of the One Bass, the Sougayilang Warrior 4000 is nevertheless a significantly cheaper option. Great for powerful game like catfish, the Warrior 4000 contains a similar corrosion-proof stainless steel ball-bearing mechanism, although with significantly less drag at 22 lbs. With a lower gear ratio, it can certainly be put to use with heavier deep-lying bait.
Related: check our article about best catfish baits!
The gear system is sensibly made from brass but, if there is a downside, it’s that the whole thing seems to wobble a bit, suggesting some looseness. For trolling in saltwater, however, it’s a perfectly functional cheaper alternative to the One Bass.
11. Abu Garcia Revo X Fishing Reel
If you’re in the market for a lightweight fishing reel that maintains a low profile, then this might be your best bet. The Abu Garcia Revo X Fishing Reel is an all-black reel with numerous features to make it well worth the investment. You even have the option of choosing right-hand or left-hand control, which isn’t a common choice.
Other options include a wide spool and a higher speed than usual. Both of these options come in either right or left has as well. Either way, the handles on this reel are ergonomic to fit perfectly in your hands. This is ideal for tough fish that are far too stubborn for a traditional fishing reel.
Their special smooth reeling system prevents hopping and skipping, giving you a smooth experience throughout the fishing day. Not only is this more comfortable, but it can also increase the lifespan of the reel. It even prevents the baitcaster line from breaking, which could otherwise completely ruin the trip.
Why Buy a Baitcasting Reel?
Buying a good baitcasting reel within this price range isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Baitcasting reels, in general, are not a good choice for beginners and that isn’t just because they’re more difficult to use – they’re more difficult to buy as well. Yet for every angler, sooner or later the simple spinning reel will need to be upgraded to a baitcaster. The gains to be made in control, strength and – not least – catches will really bring your fishing level into the professional arena. Yet even veteran anglers find selecting a good baitcasting reel an intimidating process – the endless choice and countless factors can be daunting. Yet with all that choice comes a whole lot of opportunity.
What to Consider When Buying a Baitcasting Reel
Cost, features, durability, gear ratio, “feel” and ease of use are all important factors when getting started in the world of baitcasting reels. Yet while it may not have always been thus, we are now living in an age when even a budget as low as $100 can be all you need to get a great reel – if you know what you’re looking for.
Settle on a Gear Ratio
When starting out, you can make things a whole lot easier by first deciding how you would like to fish and what you would you like to catch. What type of fish? Saltwater or freshwater? River or lakes? Heavy or light bait? How often are you going to fish? Answering these questions will immediately suggest an appropriate gear ratio, which is a great place to start. After that, you can also think about the resistance to corrosion that will be necessary if you’re thinking about fishing in saltwater.
Whatever personal criteria you ultimately settle on, you should definitely prioritize durability. If you’re taking your fishing to the level which needs a baitcaster, then you can expect to be using it often enough for inferior models to let you down by either corroding or breaking down. With a budget of $100, you can expect at least six stainless steel ball bearings in your baitcaster – don’t accept anything less.
Keeping this in mind and settling on a gear ratio gives you the best start, beyond that it’s up to you – and what type of fishing you want to do.